Discovered this essay written about the Japanese artist Yumeji Takehisa who it is described in the essay as being crushed by the economic systems put in place while he was alive painting. During Japan’s growing economic power beginning during the early 1900s, artists with the creative capacity like Yumeji Takehisa were crushed by the circumstances and found themselves alone and forced into despair. Years ago, I had a portrait painted of myself painted by a highly talented and gifted Japanese artist who had a disposition of seeming despair who drank heavily. The portrait he drew in color subsequently sold here in Tokyo for ¥35,000 which was quite surprising at the time. Although I didn’t know this artist very well, he was interested in me as a foreigner because he always wanted to draw a portrait of a foreigner sitting while reading a book. After sitting for two hours it was astonishing the resemblance to almost every physical shape of my body and looks.
A local artist who lives by me does these remarkable paintings of Japanese women dressed in traditional kimono and he has been painting for the last 40 years. The two images are of his paintings and the first painting in the image above is hanging on the wall of one of the seven sons of the Emir of Qatar in his penthouse on the 26th floor looking down on the city of Doha, Qatar. I presented it to him as a gift from Japan while on business in Qatar. Artists are the antennae of any culture, but in economic and monetary systems like in Japan artists are like cute decorations: everyone notices their art but have no cognizance of the artists real perceptions.
What the author of this essay describes is how the powerful economically entrenched elite by protecting their self-serving interests, society and individuals suffer as a consequence. This is what “kills the spirit” in so many talented artists including musicians. Imagine if artist and musicians could sell their art and music directly to their buyers if a monetary system was in place where value would be at the point of production? It is made worse probably today than during the time Yumeji Takehisa was painting. The Japanese government has kicked the humanities and arts out of government universities.
Japanese Art and Shadows of Sorrow: No Artistic Redemption for Yumeji Takehisa
June 15, 2016
by Lee Jay Walker
In many nations powerful elites often control and abuse the political system based on special interests and secrecy. Given this reality, many individuals feel like “fodder” because so many dreams fail to materialize for the majority of people. Likewise, the daily grind of paying taxes to governments that abuse power based on various agendas is not only frustrating, it also destroys the spirit of many. Artists obviously belong to the same reality but for some they feel this crushing reality even more stronger because they seek to open new dimensions.
Not suprisingly, for some individuals blessed with so much talent then these internal convulsions can unbalance and destroy artists because of countless “false dawns.” Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin are prime examples. They both were blessed with so much talent but the system crushed them and made life extremely uncomfortable. Therefore, in time capitalists got rich on the labor of two individuals blighted by poverty and extreme dark moments.
While Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin faced their internal demons the same reality would also crush the world of Yumeji Takehisa. From radiance to despair, from hope and desire to abandonment and being disillusioned. In the end, the final years of Yumeji Takehisa were filled with sorrow and internal alienation based on expectations that his art deserved. Yet the pathway of Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin – and many others – awaited Yumeji Takehisa.
Paul Gauguin stated, “without art there is no salvation” but even in death “salvation” did not fully materialize for this artist. Likewise, for Yumeji Takehisa death fails to provide artistic “salvation” when it applies to international recognition. However, death provided “salvation” for Vincent Van Gogh in its entirety when it applies to international esteem. For Paul Gauguin who was extremely sophisticated, this would have been enough. Yet he remains blighted by aspects of his life that still cast a shadow.
Yumeji Takehisa died at the age of 49 in 1934 and sadly the final decade was a period of sorrow. In other words, the artistic soul of hope was once more crushed by the reality of this world. For example, his visit to America and Europe in 1931 didn’t deliver the results that he had hoped for. Indeed, if anything, it confirmed to him that he was “running against the tide” because his artistic skills went unrewarded. Therefore, the international recognition that he craved for bypassed him despite being recognized by lay people in Japan.
On his return to Japan in 1933, he would soon enter a sanatorium because of ill health. The following year he would die in a sanatorium at the age of 49. Therefore, one can only imagine the helplessness and frustration that he felt during the later period of his life. After all, even when Yumeji Takehisa gave everything to “open the eyes of the art world” he was still rejected. This was the same rejection that he suffered in academia despite being popular with art lovers in his native country. In other words, while Yumeji Takehisa was trying to enlighten people in the international community, it soon became clear that his